Jedidiah Purdy


politics, constitution, constitutional theory, president


This Article adds a new dimension to the most important and influential strand of recent constitutional theory: popular or democratic constitutionalism, the investigation into how the U.S. Constitution is interpreted (1) as a set of defining national commitments and practices, not necessarily anchored in the text of the document, and (2) by citizens and elected politicians outside the judiciary. Wide-ranging and ground-breaking scholarship in this area has neglected the role of the President as a popular constitutional interpreter, articulating and revising normative accounts of the nation that interact dynamically with citizens’ constitutional understandings. This Article sets out a “grammar” of presidential popular constitutionalism, lays out the historical development and major transformations in its practice, proposes a set of thematic alternatives for today’s presidential popular constitutionalism, and locates presidential popular constitutionalism within the larger concerns of constitutional theory. In particular, it argues that some of the major political developments of recent decades, such as the “Reagan revolution” and the Clinton-Bush era, can be fully understood only by grasping that they are episodes in presidential popular constitutionalism.

Included in

Law Commons